Safety Training

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The safe use of tools is of primary importance. Users of a tool must be able to use it in a way that

  1. Does not harm others in the shop
  2. Does not harm themselves
  3. Does not harm the tool

Some makerspaces have a series of formal classes on each tool, or set of tools, that a user must complete to be allowed to use the tools. Other makerspaces have informal "show me how" sessions that one experienced user gives to one or two inexperienced users. Some makerspaces leave the tool manuals out and let people self certify that they are ready to use the tools.

New members will often say, "I've used a woodshop my whole life, I know what I'm doing." On the one hand you would like to provide access to your tools immediately, on the other hand people often have an oversized view of their own experience. In addition, while someone might know how to use a laser cutter, do they know how to use this particular model? Your shop will also have ways of doing things that a new member will not know: where do the tools go when finished? How much clean up is required? These things you need to tell them to maintain your shop culture. And, just because someone has been using a woodshop "their whole life" it does not mean they have been using the tools correctly or safely. (I remember one guy who said, the table saw blade guard just gets in the way, I never use it."

Tool Certification

One shop has this process:

I do member tool checks for the woodshop. For my checkoffs what I'm doing is asking 3 things on each tool:

1. Open ended, when would you use X tool and for what type of work? When to use a miter saw vs table saw, or jointer vs planer, for example.

2. Tell me the most important things to keep in mind to use this tool safely. This can include how to hold and feed work, body stance, push sticks, anything. I don't need you to recite an OSHA safety manual, I just want you to demonstrate that you've made SOME use of the tool and are aware of the basic risks and proper use.

3. Please demonstrate a cut - I'll give several simple tasks for each tool. While members are demonstrating each cut I pay attention to their set up, work holding, use of their hands, and especially watch out for any behavior that could put other members or the tools at risk. If I see them doing something that is not dangerous but poor form, I'll give them some pointers and a quick refresher.

If they are handling the tool in a way that could be dangerous to themselves, others or the tool itself then I'll have to consider if they may need re-training. It's not hard, we want you to pass, but we have to have a few standards.

The basic woodshop checkoff takes ~10 - 15 minutes for the average person. I've only had to deny 2-3 people out of a few dozen - they had taken the classes years ago but never used the machines, so they had no idea what they were really doing anymore.

I'm more likely to be strict on the more dangerous and / or expensive tools.

I want to make sure you really know what you are doing on the lathe because if you don't you can seriously injure or possibly even kill yourself or others. But if you screw up on the scroll saw, the most likely outcome is a bent blade or band-aid.

With the same logic, I want to make sure you know how to send a file, zero and run a Shopbot, because it's a huge deal for the shop if that machine is abused or damaged. You don't have to be a wizard with V-carve or inventor, just show that you know how to mount a tool, open a file and zero X, Y and Z.